We had to get up early this morning to catch our bus for the “Best of Tuscany” tour. The tour took off from the bus/train station, about fifteen minutes away by foot. We met our tour guide and got on the bus for the first leg of our trip.

Our first stop was in Siena, a medieval city. You can learn more about Siena by doing an Internet search; all I can say is it was beautiful. The second oldest road in Italy, a road the Romans took from Florence to Rome, goes through the heart of town. The oldest bank still operating in the world is located in Sienna. The city’s main trade was currency-exchange. Merchants would stop on their way to either Florence or Rome to sell their goods, borrow money, or change currencies. The Piazza del Campo was impressive. A huge, shell-shaped plaza that still hosts a 600 year old horse race twice a year. The story behind the race is interesting, but we were told you have to see it a few times (and maybe even live in Siena) to really understand it.

After Siena, we stopped at a farm/vineyard just outside San Gimignano. As beautiful as the views were in Siena, these were even nicer. We took a short tour of the farm and had a lunch of bruschetta, pasta, cheese, Tuscan biscotti, and four different wines. Delicious food with wonderful scenery.

Next, we headed to San Gimignano. We had time to ourselves, so we just wandered about the small village for an hour or so. We had some gelato at the Gelateria di Piazza, home of the World Champion Ice Cream Maker (I didn’t even know they had competitions for that), took some pictures from a spot with the most fantastic views we’ve ever seen, and chatted with some fellow tourists at a little restaurant on the main square.

Our next stop was Pisa, home of the famous Leaning Tower. The whole city (at least, the parts we saw) is beautiful, but the Field of Miracles is the highlight. I climbed to the top of the tower and got an amazing view of the city and surrounding countryside. I could really feel the tilt even when walking up the stairs. From the top, it’s a little creepy for someone who is already uneasy with heights.

We walked around Pisa for a little while and then headed back to the bus and the ride to Florence (about an hour and fifteen minutes). We got back to the hotel a little more than twelve hours after we left, so it was a long day. We decided to eat supper on the rooftop terrace and call it a night. Tomorrow, we have reservations for the Uffizi & Accademia galleries.